7 Reasons Why Wordless Picture Books are so Powerful

7 Reasons Why Wordless Picture Books are so Powerful

Wordless picture books are often quickly dismissed as being too easy. But they are a powerful tool in developing literacy skills.

The Importance of Wordless Picture Books

Why does everyone go on about how wonderful wordless picture books are? Well, I am one of those people! And this post is all about why I think books without words are so important to children’s literacy development!

Wordless picture books are often quickly dismissed as being too easy. But they are a powerful tool in developing literacy skills. Understanding books without words involves interpreting the illustrations as there is no text to rely on. This promotes comprehension, vocabulary, and listening skills and an understanding of story structure and character development.

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1. Wordless Books and Comprehension Skills

A well-rounded reader needs good comprehension skills. This includes remembering what has already happened and predicting what may happen next. This is difficult for many children. 

Wordless picture books are great for encouraging a child’s ability to infer what is happening in the story. With no words for guidance, they have to figure this out, using only the illustrations and their imagination. This not only develops comprehension but an overall understanding of story structure and plot. 

Children need to practice retelling stories in interesting and exciting ways. Sharing a wordless book with your students lets you model storytelling techniques, making connections, predicting, and questioning. With consistent practice, their independent responses will become more natural and detailed. 

Give children time to look through or discuss the book before they retell. Rushing leads missed visual clues and a misinterpretation of the story.

2. Confidence & Independence with Wordless Books

Building confidence is essential to establish a child’s love of reading. Wordless picture books strengthen independence, particularly for young readers. A child feels confidence and pride in reading a book by themselves. 

Teachers see every day how hard learning to read is! Supporting a child to pick up another book often depends on their last reading experience. It is important for children to have positive reading experiences. Wordless picture books give children a break from decoding and the opportunity to focus on the story itself. 

A wordless picture book is beneficial for any child of any age and any reading ability. For those children who struggle with reading, they can enjoy a wordless book independently.

They are perfect for older children who need to work on their comprehension or storytelling skills. For younger children new to reading, a lack of text means they can focus on the illustrations, the story and the characters. Many books without words are works of art in their own right and don’t look “too young” or “too easy”.

3. Wordless Books and Verbal Skills

Wordless picture books invite children to become an active participant in the story. Following up on a child’s questions helps make connections and increases understanding. As there are no words the flow of the story is not interrupted as it would when reading text. They encourage children to tell a story rather than reading the text or listening to an adult read.

Model how to describe the plot, setting and characters. You can discuss cause and effect, conflict resolution, add dialogue and elaborate on what is happening. Encourage imagination by thinking of new ways to retell the story on each new reading.

Asking questions teaches children that clues to the story are not only in text but also the illustrations. Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What is happening?
  • Tell me about the characters. What are their emotions?
  • What is the character thinking? How do you know?
  • What is the character’s goal/mission? How will they achieve their goal?
  • Why did the character make this choice? Could they have made a better choice?
  • What is the character going to do next? How will their actions affect the story?
  • What do you think the character is saying? Why?
  • What is the setting of the story? What do you notice about the setting?
  • What will happen next? How do you know?

4. Wordless Books and the Acquisition of New Vocabulary

Storytelling with wordless picture books increases vocabulary and verbal skills. Analysing the illustrations, plots and character actions will naturally introduce new and more complex words. Your students will incorporate them into their own language as they understand their context.

5. Wordless Books and Visual Appreciation

Illustrations convey emotions, story details and foreshadowing. With wordless picture books, you blend words with art tells a story, making each additional reading different. Looking for clues within the illustrations helps the reader interpret the plot. Transferring this skill to books with text helps children read unknown words. Pouring over the illustrations removes the pressure some children feel when reading.

6. Wordless Books Story Structure and Sequencing

Wordless picture books lend themselves to developing storytelling skills. Examine the story structure together. Focus on the sequence of events, particularly the beginning, middle and end. Retelling improves the understanding that actions happen in a particular order affecting the plot’s outcome. Using books without words, children can focus on the plot and make connections.

7. Wordless Books and Writing Skills

Storytelling influences independent writing. Use wordless picture books as story starters during independent writing activities. This provides opportunities to incorporate ideas from their reading, such as vocabulary, sentence structure, story structure and character development.

As a teacher, I used wordless picture books to inspire creative writing. Children can retell the story, add character dialogue and write an epilogue or a prelude. Using books as inspiration helps those children who struggle to develop creative ideas.

What Next?

Wordless picture books should be a staple of any classroom, library or child’s bookshelf. Don’t dismiss them as easy because of the lack of text, they are so much more! 

What are your favourite wordless picture books? Let me know in the comments.

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12 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why Wordless Picture Books are so Powerful”

  1. My favorite wordless book is Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier
    It illustrates a beautiful story of Noah building the Ark, gathering the animals and his family, and the great flood that came. It also shows the animals and everything else that was left behind, This wordless book is wonderful, and it will touch your heart and make you sad at the same time.

  2. Amazing! Another powerful and important blog in children`s literature from Kirstin.
    I was looking for some takes regarding this topic and I found your article quite informative. It has given me a fresh perspective on the topic tackled. Thanks!

  3. I love this post! Wordless books are wonderful! It really does give them a chance to use their imagination because they don’t have to worry about the reading process it self and can focus on the story at hand. I like the idea of using them as a starting point for creative writing. I may have to try that!

  4. Oh my gosh – there are SO many great uses for wordless picture books. Plus, inference is something so many older kiddos struggle with. Using these kinds of books from a young age and/or to help teach inference lessons to older students would be incredibly beneficial.

    1. Yes, wordless books are so multi-functional and especially great to use with older children when focusing on specific skills!

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